Creating Cotehele's Christmas garland
Every November gardeners and volunteers at Cotehele in Cornwall create a 60ft long Christmas garland using thousands of flowers grown on the estate. The giant swag – the longest made at any of the places we look after – hangs in the Great Hall throughout the festive season.
Preparations for the garland begin months earlier in February when the flower seeds are sown. The first flowers are ready for picking from late April and are then dried in the loft over the summer and autumn before the garland is put together over two weeks in November.
A unique display year-on-year
Tens of thousands of flowers go into the garland each year. ‘Ideally we’d like 30,000 but some years we get as low as 20,000,’ explains head gardener Dave Bouch. ‘How many we get is completely down to the summer – we need sunny days and low rainfall – that’s the joy of gardening. For Christmas 2015 we’ll have more than 35,000 flowers.’
‘Each year the garland is different, depending on which of the specially grown flowers have done well,’ adds Dave. The garland often includes ornamental grasses, everlasting sand flower, straw flower, paper daisy, paper rose, statice and garden thrift.
Putting the garland together
Creating the garland is a task which involves team work and Cotehele’s gardeners and volunteers use scaffolding to add flowers into the growing festive display.
The results are magnificent, not only because of the visual spectacle the garland makes but also because of the months of work it represents. ‘It’s always satisfying to look up at the colourful garland in winter and reflect on the earlier seasons which have contributed to it’ says Dave.
See the finished swag
The garland hangs in the Great Hall from late November until the end of December and is the backdrop for festive events – in the run up to Christmas 2015 a variety of local choirs and musical groups will perform under it. Other traditional decorations made from natural materials and winter foliage grown on the estate are also on show.
‘If you’ve not seen the garland at Cotehele, you must,’ enthuses Dave. ‘A visit to the garland will undoubtedly become one of your family’s annual Christmas traditions.’